European Observatory to Make 'Major' Alien Planet Announcement Today

Snow at La Silla Paranal Observatory
Rare snow fell at La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert (Image credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky)

A European observatory will announce what it describes as "major" alien planet findings on Today (Sept. 12).

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) Monday to "report significant new results in the field of exoplanets," ESO officials said in a media alert.

The results were obtained with the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher instrument, better known as HARPS, officials said. HARPS is a spectrograph on ESO's 11.8-foot (3.6-meter) telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. [The Strangest Alien Planets]

Participating in the press conference will be:

  • Francesco Pepe, Geneva Observatory, Switzerland
  • Lisa Kaltenegger, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany
  • Markus Kissler-Patig or Joe Liske, ESO

Kissler-Patig or Liske will discuss the future of exoplanet research with ESO's European Extremely Large Telescope, ESO officials said. This instrument will be the world's largest telescope, boasting a 129-foot (39.3-meter) main mirror. It will be built on Chile's Cerro Armazones mountain, and could begin operations by early in the next decade.

ESO didn't give any further details about what Pepe and Kaltenegger will discuss. Both scientists are actively involved in the search for potentially habitable alien planets — those on which liquid water, and perhaps life as we know it, could exist.

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, astronomers have discovered 564 confirmed alien planets to date, with more than 1,000 more candidate worlds suggested by data from the Kepler space observatory.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.